Thoughts on the ‘Open Heaven’ Teachings?

I was recently told by someone in church authority that we are ‘living under an open heaven and should be ushering in the Kingdom’. This got me thinking, what do they actually mean by an ‘open heaven’? I got the impression that this person was suggesting we had some sort of portal to access heavenly things/supernatural powers and opportunities. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the term, but when it was being utilised so close to home, I wanted to see whether this is scriptural or not.

I’ve noticed that John 1:51 uses the phrase ’heavens opened’ by Jesus. It seems he’s comparing himself to the ladder in Jacob’s vision in Gen 28:12, showing he will be our connection to God.

Likewise, Ezekiel 1:1 references ‘the heavens were opened’ at the start of his first heavenly vision. It seems very specific to his experience at that particular time.

Now, I understand that Jesus has provided us access to the Father - will are now living as righteous before our Holy God- for all those who have believed. Is that the sum of what an ‘open heaven’ really is?

I had a look at some websites of those who advocate this teaching and it seems their interpretation is so much more than this:

Bill Johnson writes in a blog at https://bethelmusic.com/blog/open-heaven-bill-johnson/

An “Open Heaven” is where there’s a nearness of Heaven to earth. There’s a sense of presence, there’s a sense of clarity of thought, of heart, and mind that is unusual. People think for themselves within an open heaven and aren’t influenced by the spirit of the day or the spirit that seems to have dominance in a certain geographical area.

An open heaven is something that was prophesied in Isaiah 64:1. It’s a prayer, a prophecy with an intercessory cry, where the prophet cries out “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down”. Here’s this cry for God to tear the Heavens open and to come down.

Likewise, another article online at- http://www.fromtheoverflow.com/open-heavens/
says:

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened! Hebrews 10:19-22 further tells us how Jesus’ crucified body has become the new and living way into the throne room of God. This means, all the more, open heavens for us. Whatever God opens, no man can shut (Revelation 3:7-8). No sin, evil motive, rebellion, demon or principality can cause the heavens to close again!.. What does this mean for us? It means that we have complete access to God and every resource that He has promised us. Heaven is not on hold for you. It is ready for you to access now.
You don’t have to break through a barrier to get to where God is in your pursuit for Him. Where He is seated is actually your starting point in your pursuit for Him!’

Personally, I’m concerned by these interpretations. I’m also aware there is worship music appearing with this phrase in it, including kids worship songs (I speak also as a concerned parent). I’d be grateful to hear if anyone else has heard this expression, what your thoughts on these Bible passages I’ve quoted are, and how you feel about some interpretations of ‘open heaven’?

Thanks :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi Alison!

Great question! Theology is what is at stake here. People are moving away from confessional churches and into places where theology is not taught or spoken of. This leads to movements like the NAR of which Bethel is a member.

Bill Johnson espouses his own theology based solely on Jesus’s ministry while on earth, largely disavows anything in the OT, and preaches “primary truths” and “secondary truths” of which he is the arbiter. Here is Mike Winger’s exhaustive video on the Bethel church and Bill Johnson’s theology. It’s long, but fair and thorough. https://youtu.be/r3tEv26OMTU

You’re spot on in your reading of John 1:51.

The article quoting Hebrews 10 is literally reading their false theology into the passage. The author of Hebrews here is referring to the fact that when Jesus died and the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn, He opened the channels of communication so we could have a direct communion with God without human intercession. Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us with the Father now. Christ is our Chief Priest.

Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation are all flooding the Christian churches and airwaves with their music based on unsound doctrine. The NAR and the charismatic movement in general base their teachings on the supernatural and tend to slip into gnostic teachings that were identified as heretical by the early church. In all, it would be good to research this concept completely and discern what you and your children should consume. Not all of their music is doctrinally false, but, like the old saying - even a broken clock is right twice per day.

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Hello @artownsend and thank you for your post. I have never encountered

but I have read what a man, considered to be a prophet, with ties to Bethel Church in Redding, California has said about

Bob Jones, quoted in the book Physics of Heaven said

There was a mighty rushing wind, or breath, or I would call it a portal right into heaven, and the men and women at Pentecost were underneath that portal…A positive vibration is like a portal into heaven…When we vibrate, I think it’s opening a portal. The Old Testament speaks of windows or doors into heaven and there are 300 of them. To me they’re like a funnel or a portal. There are 28 of them in the New Testament. Revelation 4.1 is about an open heaven, but it’s really about an open heaven coming down and touching earth. This is what I think happen on the day of Pentecost.

I became curious about Bob Jones after reading this and found the following at bobjones.org

When only seven years old…the Arch Angel Gabriel appeared to Bob Jones on a white horse and blew a double silver trumpet in his face [and then Gabriel] threw an old bull skin mantle at Bob’s feet…which is [the mantle] of Seer Prophet.

Thank you, @artownsend, for including scriptures. I find this very helpful.

@TXian I appreciate what you have said. Can I ask you to elaborate and expand more on the following when you have the time?

I have not heard ‘confessional churches’ before. I would love to know what you mean.

I realize this is a lot to cover, Paul. No rush. Thank you for your post. Also, if anyone else has any insight, I am interested in what you have come across as a lot of this is new to me.

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Hi Mary Beth!

You’re making me pull out the ol’ scratch pad for this one. :smiley:

Confessional Churches

A “Confession” is basically a old time “Statement of Belief”. It is the doctrine that a church holds to or what we ‘confess’ to be true. For example, the Doctrine of the Trinity is mined from Scripture. There’s no place in the Bible that explicitly spells out the triune God, but there are plenty of statements throughout the entirety of the Bible that support this idea. A Confession states this belief with verses to back it up.
For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith from 1647 Chapter 2 Section 3 states:

III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.(o) The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding: the Son is eternally begotten of the Father:( p) the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.(q)

(o) I John 5:7; Matt. 3:16, 17; Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 13:14.
( p) John 1:14, 18.
(q) John 15:26; Gal. 4:6.

Liberalism and culture have eroded doctrine to the point that many churches today no longer hold to any classical Confession and most have only a very short “Statement of Belief” (if any at all) on their website. They do not teach doctrine in any way, so it’s most times unclear what their views of God actually are. You’d probably be surprised to know how many churches today reject the Doctrine of the Trinity and even parts of the Gospel itself! In my view, knowing who God is as well as why He does things is foundational to understanding Scripture. In a lot of churches today, we’re told stories from the Bible as examples to illustrate the pastor’s topical message and left to fill in the blanks for ourselves. Pastors can stand in the pulpit and say almost anything and we have no basis for discernment to know his interpretation is correct if we do not study theology.

I grew up Baptist but was never taught doctrine. When I asked what makes us Baptist and how we differ from Methodists (or anyone else from that matter), I was told, “Baptists don’t drink or dance.” Terrible answer to a real question! I should have been given the Baptist Confession of Faith from 1689 and told, “Here - read this.” I sure wish that would’ve happened.

A “Confessional Church” is one who holds to a stated Confession. The old ones were very thorough. The Roman Catholic Church has one and all the Protestant Churches held to one in the early days. It was only in the 20th Century with Modernism and Liberalism that churches massively fell away from holding Confessions. A catechism is a teaching of the Confession.

Bill Johnson Questions

If you’d like to know more about Bill and Bethel, his doctrine, and goal to spread it to the world through their “Jesus Culture” - I urge you to watch the video linked above. Mike is very thorough and Biblically refutes video evidence (through sermons and interviews) of Bill Johnson stating his theology. Sounds like Bob Jones would get along great with him. I believe that Gabriel appeared to Bob Jones when he was seven about as much as I believe Jesus gave Joseph Smith the book of Mormon. (which is not at all)

Gnosticism

Paraphrased From Wikipedia:
Gnosticism is a collection of religious ideas and systems which originated in the first century AD among early Christian and Jewish sects. These various groups emphasized personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) over the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of the church. Gnostics considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or esoteric insight. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment.

There are many resources on gnosticism to read on the web. If you’re a Bible-believing Christian you can see where this leads to trouble. Special revelation and direct communication from spirits is dangerous and even Paul tells us to test all prophecy against Scripture.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 ESV 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.

I understand that parts of both my posts may seem harsh and dismissive; however, we’re warned repeatedly of false prophets in the church (2 Peter 2, Mt. 7:15, Mt. 24:24, Mk. 13:22, Eze. 14:10, Mt. 24:11) and I feel we need to use our God-given discernment to point them out. (2 Peter 2, Phillipians 1:9-11) Go in through the narrow gate! (Mt. 7:13-14)

With love in Christ our Lord.

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Hi @TXian I am so grateful for all the thoughts you’ve shared, thank you!!

Yes, this is certainly a large part of my overall experience of Sunday sermons. You’ve summarised this worrying trend so well, and I believe is a big reason why teachings like the one I’ve raised (‘Open Heavens’) so easily slip into church jargon, at least near me :slightly_smiling_face:.

I appreciate your link to the Mike Winger video. I have watched several of his videos and have found him graciously and gently warn of false teachings in certain circles.

I have seen this mindset in books and from the pulpit. It’s always disguised though and may be hard to discern for those who do not know what the Bible teaches so well. I think it is often encouraged under the guise of ‘being open to the Holy Spirit’, not putting ‘God in a box’, and ‘not quenching the Holy Spirit’. I read recently in the Physics of Heaven book (Authored by Kris Valloton, Bill Johnson, Bob Jones and many others) that @MaryBeth1 mentioned, that those Christians who do not agree with these teachings have a ‘religious spirit’. I feel this puts pressure on Christians to accept these teachings to avoid being under a religious spirit!

We had quite an interesting discussion on some New Age themes in this book recently:

I really appreciate your feedback. I’m hearing some of this ‘off’ theology quite often and although I know it’s not right, I sometimes struggle to pin down exactly how scripture has been misinterpreted. I value the insight that you’ve brought.

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Thank you @TXian for the clarification of what it means to be a confessional church. I am familiar with the terminology statement of belief or doctrinal statement. I didn’t realize it was the same.
A great detailed reply!

I have watched several of Mike Winger’s videos. One was on the credentials of Brian Simmons, the sole author of the Passion Translation that is used by Bill Johnson and other leaders affiliated with Bethel. I found the results of Mike’s extensive research on this topic to be disturbing. Before viewing his videos, I was half expecting him to be critical or demeaning to the person he was discussing, but he wasn’t. He stated the facts and let the evidence speak for itself. The focus was on what that person had said or written and the doctrines they espoused.

Someone else I have been impressed with is Holly Pivec and Doug Geivett. Here is some more from these authors if you are interested.


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HCP72DP/ref=dp--redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1kindle

Thanks again for your reply. I am a grateful recipient of

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Hi @artownsend!

I was thinking about your question these days and I tried to find some opinions from our older brothers in History. I did that because Jesus told us that His Spirit will guide his Church and this applied to every Christian in History and we find wisdom when we ask them for guidance. It is common to find also that every “new” doctrine is actually some ancient heresy.

What I found is that they don’t put so much emphasis on “open heaven”. There were few commentaries on that. What they understand by that is only that that phrase means that we have access to God, that He shows himself to us.

Then I go to “The Lord’s prayer” to look what they think about “Our Father which art in heaven”. And here is Calvin’s commentary:

“The next words are, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. From this we are not to infer that he is
enclosed and confined within the circumference of heaven, as by a kind of boundaries. Hence Solomon confesses, “The heaven of heavens cannot contain thee,” (1 Kings 8:27); and he himself says by the Prophet, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool,” (Isa. 66:1); thereby intimating, that his presence, not confined to any region, is diffused over all space. But as our gross minds are unable to conceive of his ineffable glory, it is designated to us by heaven, nothing which our eyes can behold being so full of splendor and majesty. While, then, we are accustomed to regard every object as confined to the place where our senses discern it, no place can be assigned to God; and hence, if we would seek him, we must rise higher than all corporeal or mental discernment. Again, this form of expression reminds us that he is far beyond the reach of change or corruption, that he holds the whole universe in his grasp, and rules it by his power. The effect of the expressions therefore, is the same as if it had been said, that he is of infinite majesty, incomprehensible essence, boundless power, and eternal duration. When we thus speak of God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch; we must not ascribe to him any thing of a terrestrial or carnal nature, must not measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be like ours. At the same time, we must put our confidence in him, understanding that heaven and earth are governed by his providence and power. In short, under the name of Father is set before us that God, who hath appeared to us in his own image, that we may invoke him with sure faith; the familiar name of Father being given not only to inspire confidence, but also to curb our minds, and prevent them from going astray after doubtful or fictitious gods. We thus ascend from the only begotten Son to the supreme Father of angels and of the Church. Then when his throne is fixed in heaven, we are reminded that he governs the world, and, therefore, that it is not in vain to approach him whose present care we actually experience.”
John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion.

I think the main problem with modern theology is the focus on humanity rather than Christ. That’s why now the interpretation of “open heaven” is that God will give us something, but before the emphasis was on God’s glory.

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Thank you Renzo for your reply!!

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Hello @artownsend Justin Peter’s series ‘Clouds Without Waters’ touches on these issues precisely. He exposes the foundations of the NAR, word of faith, and charismatic movements and dissects some of the false teachings of Bill Johnson and other prominent word of faith leaders. For example, he finds that one of the founders of the ‘word of faith’ movement had close ties to new-age spiritualism which stems into the modern-day ‘open heavens’ teachings of Bethel, and other ‘supernatural’ doctrine.

I highly recommend you watch these videos if you have the time!

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Hi @Renzo.DG,

Thank you so much for your response and perspective. I agree that it is a good idea to look to earlier teachings to see how these things were approached.

This is how I’ve always understood it. The change in meaning in some circles has confused me but I see how mature Christians I respect are completely taken in by this new meaning. I’m thankful to have your insight should I need to have that conversation with others again.

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Hi @hluke, thank you very much for those resources. I’ve watched both of the videos and find them very revealing in some things that are going on. I think Justin Peters has an important ministry in drawing attention to things that are not quite scriptural, like as you say, the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and Word of Faith movement.

One thing I would note is that he has used what I would call ‘extremes’ of the situation in his examples. I want to highlight this, because this year I have discovered that much of my life I have adhered to NAR beliefs without realising it! God has really been working in my life, and I could possibly say this is the closest experience I have to a transformation experience (I’ve been a Christian nearly all my life). However, most of what I have experienced is MUCH more subtle than the examples used in these videos. It makes it much harder to pick out as wrong theology. I would also say that the churches I’ve been connected with all my life are full of people who genuinely love God and want to experience his presence more. This is why little phrases like ‘Open Heaven’ slip in the normal conversations, because much of what I see is scriptural as well. I think that because it is so subtle, many Christians whom I love and respect are also not picking up that phrases or verses like this are being used out of context and applied in a flawed way. I believe it is possible to be ‘charismatic’ - believing in the use of all the spiritual gifts today - in a way that is faithful to scripture and works within the boundaries set up in the Bible. What I am learning though, is that this can only be done with sound Bible teaching.

I’m really grateful for ministries and individuals who work to draw attention to these things so that the body of Christ can remain faithful to scripture. Thank you for sharing these things.

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Hello @artownsend thanks so much for responding! Peter’s definitely does pick out the more profound examples of false doctrine. I think, rightly so! A lot of the church corruption in the west begins within these groups. Without making wrong character judgements, it is good do get the ‘best’ evidence to convict someone guilty, and often that means bringing the worst to the table, for the benefit of justice and denunciation.
I think he uses extreme evidence to make a (needed) point: avoid any group remotely associated with those people in the examples. And this is for the benefit of our faith, and the faith of those around us. Then we can help the loss sheep by spreading our experiences.

I too am so thankful to God that he sent Justin Peters into my life. Like you, I practiced charismatic beliefs without realising! I God could spoke to me, gave me dreams etc. I have no doubt he can in theory, but he speaks through the bible sufficiently: audibly if we read the scripture out loud. :slight_smile: While I’m still young in the faith, this is so relieving. The bible is clear and touching, free from corruption.

My personal view now is that the supernatural should be put a firm second in my faith. I have perhaps unfortunately become skeptical about the spiritual gifts operating in today’s church because of the picture painted by large televangelists and other wealthy ‘Word of Faith’ teachers. Supernatural gifts definitely do still exist, so I’m not a cessationist but they are neither necessary for eternal matters and it is thus better to put them aside to avoid confusion. I think a practical and lowly application of these gifts is okay. There are a few discrete healing ministries nearby, nothing boastful, just willing to help others to the glory of God. This is what it should be like with the rest of the Apostolic gifts too.

It is concerning what Satan has done to lead many astray.
Matt 7:22-23 is boneshaking to me. I think if one can perform miracles in Jesus’ name and yet be cast into hell for eternity is a sure warning to all them that manipulate truth for personal gain!!!

Thanks again for responding Alison.

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Hi @hluke,

I found it encouraging to read what you shared of your own change of mind regarding some practices.

I think you’ve raised an important issue here that is connected to the overall topic. I feel like I swung like a pendulum in my approach to charismatic Christianity. I once held to ‘hyper’ charismatic teachings and after God showed me the errors when held against scripture, I went the opposite way, totally scared to use any of the spiritual gifts, lest I be in error. I used to dream a lot (dreams I believed were from God), speak in tongues and practice the prophetic - after God showed me my errors, I stopped practising these gifts and didn’t have a single dream for 6 months. Whilst at this opposite point, I also felt to be in error too. I am grateful to @SeanO for recommending a book to me, ‘Practising the Power’ by Sam Storms which encourages churches to be theologically sound in their Bible teaching but free to practise the spiritual gifts today within Biblical remits. I have found this so helpful as I’ve worked out the middle ground. I’d also recommend a discussion from Remnant Radio, a theological talk show that looks at different denominations and viewpoints in order to understand scripture more soundly. I came across this particular episode last week which looks at ‘balanced charismatics’. You may find it really interesting given what you’ve shared:

All these resources continue to feed into my understanding of what it means to be faithful to scripture yet free in experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit today. It is all part of my journey to understand how to discern erroneous teachings like ‘open heavens’ without shutting out the move of the spirit. It’s a tricky path to tread but I don’t believe is impossible. As long as I keep to the word:

Psalm 119:103-105
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

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Hi @artownsend thanks again for responding.

Same here. I had a lot of dreams that I thought were from God. I had one dream about the rapture once and this made me feel special, but nay! :slight_smile:
One thing I have noticed among them that claim to have had dreams from God, they seem to feel fearful about something, or they are urgent about bible related things such as the rapture.
Not to name anyone specifically, there are many Youtubers who share “URGENT END-TIME WARNINGS REPENT NOW!” videos or videos with similar titles. Now some Christians do need to wake up, but the following is ever true, even in a time of trial!

“God hath not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7 Amen. No questions.

Thanks for this, I’ll check it out later.

Yes indeed. I think if one truly does have apostolic gifts (quite rare), they should use them to glorify God. But as I mentioned and you allude to, they are virtually a non-issue in our salvation.
We just need to love, lest we become a clanging symbol.

Thanks for the video and the book recommendation too!

Ps 43.3
O send out thy light and thy truth;
let them lead me,
let them bring me unto thy holy hill,
and to thy tabernacles.

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Absolutely spot-on @TXian my parents and immediate family go to a church which has ‘connections’ to Bethel Church and I’ve been to 5 dedications and only twice was the Gospel preached keep in mind one third of the congregation were non believers. And some of the books I see on there coffee table makes my blood pressure rise and come away depressed.

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Hi Alison,

I have been thinking on your question for awhile now. It is an interesting question, as I have not come across this phrase “open heavens” in the past. I really appreciate all of the comments that have been made and the resources that have been shared.

I pulled out my concordance and my Bible and so far have only found 8 instances in which this type of wording has been used in scripture. Here are the passages that I found:
Ezekiel 1:1, Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:21, John 1:51, Acts 7:56, Acts 10:11, and Revelation 19:11.

As is always the case, if we want to understand a passage or phrase accurately, we need to look at it in context. What is surrounding that particular verse or phrase.

In Ezekiel 1 we find the prophet Ezekiel among the exiles of Judah. He is beside the river Chebar in the land of Judah’s captivity, Babylon. Ezekiel 1:1 tells us that when the heavens were opened Ezekiel saw visions of God. If one is curious about what the vision entails, one would need to read the entire book of Ezekiel (a fascinating read). But the vision he sees is first off of God. Verses 26-28 tell us,

Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and hear a voice speaking.

If we are curious about who this person is, we can turn to Revelation and find a similar description in Revelation 1:12-16,

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

It is interesting that both Ezekiel and John have the same response when they find themselves in the presence of this One.
Ezekiel 1:28

And when I saw, I fell on my face…

Revelation 1:17

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man

This One then goes on to identify Himself in Revelation 1: 17-18,

And He placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

So Ezekiel is literally seeing visions of God Himself!

The next three passages that speak of an “open heaven” are recorded in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These passages are all referring to the accounts of the baptism of Jesus.

Matthew 3:16-17

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22,

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Now, the next instance of this type of phrasing is used by the Apostle John in his gospel. To fully understand the context in would be appropriate to read John 1:28-51. At the end of this rather lengthy passage, Jesus makes this statement about Himself,

And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

As you indicated, Alison, this refers back to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:10-22, where he sees a ladder that is set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Jesus in effect is saying in John 1:51 that He is that ladder that bridges man to God.

Acts 7:56 falls within the greater narrative of Acts 6:7-7:60, where Stephen is giving a defense of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and he is martyred for his profession. As he is being stoned to death he has the following experience as related in Acts 7:55-56,

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 10:1-48 is the context for the next passage where we see this phrase used. The narrative tells us of the occasion where Peter is called through a vision to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. I encourage you to read the entire chapter in order to get the full picture. Peter is seeing a vision when the sky is opened up, that reinforces the message that God is giving him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This passage is perhaps the one that least fits with the other passages we see that employ this type of phrasing regarding an “open heaven”. But I think the same idea is here in essence, that of Jesus Christ descending to be the propitiation for mankind, for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

The final passage that I found that speaks of an “open heaven” is Revelation 19:11-16,

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

So what do we glean from the passages that mention an “open heaven”? I think it is exactly what Renzo referred to when he said,

For this reason, I think the passage in John 1:51 is significant. Jesus is the ladder, the bridge, the reconciliation between heaven and earth, between the Father and mankind. We need no other “portal” than the one given to us in the person of Jesus Christ. I love Hebrews 1:1-14. The first four verses are especially powerful, but I would encourage a read of the entire chapter!

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

What a magnificent Lord we serve!

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Hi @clark.belle, thank you so much for sharing your study of the 8 passages of scripture. I found this extremely helpful.

One of the things that really jumped out at me was the point you made about Ezekiel and John’s reactions when they saw heaven opened:

When I was thinking about how in John 1:51, Jesus was essentially showing that HE is now the ladder that bridges between us and God, in a way I see how some people might say we are now living under an ‘open-heaven’ in the sense that we now have access to God in a way mankind didn’t have before the Cross. However, what I find particularly interesting is that Ezekiel’s reaction and John’s reaction were either side of the Cross. Just because Jesus has paved a way between us to the Father, doesn’t mean we can suddenly become flippant and look into heaven and receive supernatural empowerment, visions and revelations (I’m not denying these happen altogether, I just think the genuine experiences are more rare than people make out). John, who lived into the New Covenant was still FACE DOWN, ‘like a dead man’. This is such a big indication that an open heaven refers to a specific vision at a specific time, and whilst Jesus has opened our access to God, it doesn’t mean we lose our awe and reverance of God. It makes me question a lot of things I’ve heard about visits to heaven and the like.

I also find it interesting that many people haven’t heard this phrase used as I hear it commonly, even with churches claiming it as their church name.
Thank you, Belle and everyone, for sharing your wisdom on these things. I really appreciate your time and thoughts.

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